A few days ago, several media outlets ran a news report about a poor man selling his cow to repay the debt he took to buy his daughter a mobile phone. The reports tried to highlight the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic faced by a large swathe of the poor and underprivileged people in the throes of grinding poverty.
The story instantly went viral and garnered a groundswell of sympathy for the man, who had to resort to the desperate measure of trading his livestock to ensure that his daughter’s online classes remain unimpeded.
NDTV published a report claiming man sold his cow to buy a smartphone
With the coronavirus outbreak forcing schools and educational institutes to go online, the report published in NDTV claimed that the man named Kuldip Kumar had to force sell his cow so as to afford a mobile phone and pay for her school fees, ensuring that the contagion does not deprive her of her opportunity to learn.
The report published by NDTV further added that after the touching story of a father trying to ensure his daughter’s school and online classes continue unhampered in the wake of the economic setback induced by the coronavirus pandemic went viral, the Himachal Pradesh state administration swung into action, offering financial relief to the family. The report added that Mr Kumar was offered his cow back but he refused to take it. Instead, he asked the authorities to get his decrepit house to be repaired under the central scheme and to be listed as a Below Poverty Line family.
The Tribune claimed the man could not secure a loan and thus sold his cow for purchasing a smartphone
Similarly, The Tribune also carried the news, stating the man from the Gummer village in Jwalamukhi, Himachal Pradesh, sold his cow—his “only source of income” for Rs 6,000— to support the online studies of his two children.
The Tribune, in its report, claimed that Mr Kumar told the media organisation that for a month he desperately sought loan of Rs 6,000 to buy a smartphone but was denied by the banks and private lenders on account of his poor financial condition.
In contrast to the NDTV report which said that Kumar managed to get a loan to buy a smartphone, the Tribune report stated that after exhausting all his means to secure a loan for buying a smartphone, Kuldip sold his cow for Rs 6,000 purchased a smartphone for the education of his children.
Many other media organisations picked up the report published by The Tribune
In addition to NDTV and The Tribune, news agency IANS picked up the story and several other media organisations cited The Tribune and the shared the poignant story about a desperate and a helpless father sacrificing his source of income for securing the future of his children as coronavirus continues to ravage the country.
While many news outfits shared the story alleging that the man sold his cow to help his children’s online studies, the officials of the district administrations fact-checked some of the claims made in the reports.
District Administration says the cow was sold by Mr Kumar of his own volition
The district administration reached out to Mr Kumar and found that he has seven animals in his cowshed and he takes care of his family by selling milk.
Furthermore, puncturing the claims made in the above news reports that Mr Kumar is suffering from crippling poverty and had no means to buy a smartphone for the online classes of his children, the district officials alleged that his children have expensive books and are studying in a private school despite a government school in the vicinity of their house.
As the news of Mr Kumar being forced to sell his cows to pay for his children’s school fees and buy a smartphone went viral, the district authorities visited his house to collect information about the forced sale. The probe by the authorities revealed that Mr Kumar sold his cow of his own volition to one Surendra Mohan of the same village for Rs 6,000 because he had no place to provide shelter to his animals in the rainy season.
Furthermore, the investigation revealed that the mobile phone which was bought for the education of his children was purchased 3 months ago on April 30. It has also come to notice that Mr Kuldip Kumar has been nominated for a new house under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana by the panchayat.
The Deputy Commissioner of Kangra district, Rakesh Prajapati, added that the facts on the ground are far away from reality. He said that the SDM and Tehsildar of Sub Divisional Jawalamukhi have done a thorough investigation about this family. He claimed that the family had been living in the cowshed of their own accord and the cow was sold voluntarily. He rejected the assertions made in the news reports, stating that the intent behind selling the cow was misreported by the news organisations.
The Deputy Commissioner also said that the man was offered by the administration that the cow can be rebought and given to the man but he has refused to take the cow because he has no place to keep the animal.